A brief history of Processing and p5.js

Published by on Thursday December 29, 2022


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Before Processing came out in 2001 and was made available for free, learning to program in the context of art and design was extremely difficult. You had to write dozens of complicated lines of code and had to have a lot of knowledge to be able to draw simple geometric shapes on a surface. The programming language Processing made this much easier in one fell swoop. It is specifically aimed at creatives, artists and designers and the underlying idea is quite ingenious. The developers refer to the software with embedded programming language as a “sketchbook” and call the projects you develop with Processing “sketches.” Just as you can scribble quick drawings in a notebook, Processing is supposed to let you create software sketches with code. Thus Processing set a decisive milestone in the world of computer art and generative design. From now on, there was a tool that made creative coding accessible to non-programmers and people less tech-savvy.

A lot has happened in the years between Processing’s release and today. Processing engages a large global community and has been used for decades in design studios, art studios, architecture firms, schools, universities, and living rooms. The idea and the software have matured over the years. In the process, the developers also had to face defeats and react to fundamental technological developments: The programming language Java, with which Processing was originally created, did not become a basic technology for the Internet.

In 2012, the Processing Foundation was founded as a non-profit oganization that supports and launches projects that build on the basic ideas of Processing. The most important project of the last 10 years is definitively p5.js.

p5.js was initiated by media artist Lauren McCarthy and aims to implement the basic principles of Processing in Javascript so that sketches can be shared on the web as interactive applications. Lauren McCarthy has also given the idea of Processing a whole new boost. She has been very committed to making the Processing Foundation even more active as a community of values that promotes diversity, equality, education, and free software around the world.

Today, there are even more projects implementing the idea of Processing in different languages. However, Processing and p5.js are the ones that have become the most widespread.

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